Game development

The surprising truth about the development of Returnal

Krueger said during the panel that the development of “Returnal” was like “Sisyphus pushing the boulder” (via IGN). It looks like the team had to adapt to several new technologies and styles of gameplay development that they weren’t used to. Apparently one of the hardest parts of making the game was switching to using Unreal Engine 4. Housemarque’s last three titles, “Nex Machina”, “Matterfall” and “Alienation” all used 2D visuals in an isometric point of view. The shift to three-dimensional gameplay for “Returnal” essentially required most studio employees to learn an entirely new style of development.

“It’s no exaggeration to say that for half the game’s development time it was unplayable,” Krueger said. “We were learning to use the engine, we were breaking things, creating dependencies that we didn’t understand […] we were just learning as we went.”

Why would the Housemarque team put themselves through all this? It seems likely that the opportunity for the small development studio to partner with Sony to create a true AAA launch title for the PS5 was just too big to pass up. Krueger described it as a “leap of faith” in which the studio should “build our wings as we fall”.